1.04.2006

Ethics and the Nature of Sin



CONFLICTING ABSOLUTES

Pr. Curtis makes the point in his post below that we need to look at goals and means separately. His position is that the goal is not always sin, but certain means are always sin. What this introduces is the topic of casuistry, the application of ethical principles.

In Lutheran (i.e. Christian) ethics, the first principle must always be that we are incapable of fulfilling ANY of God's laws. There is no sinless way out for us. In this understanding, we must often "choose the lesser evil" and throw ourselves on God's mercy. This is called the theory of conflicting absolutes. There are no exceptions to God's Law. I suggest reading Norman Geisler's Christian Ethics: Options and Issues, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989); and Helmet Thielicke's Theological Ethics, ed. William H. Lazareth, vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1966, out of print). I have both these works and have found the knowledge contained therein to be invaluable in considering ethical issues.

Abortion is always wrong. There are no exceptions. But tubal pregnancies must be aborted or the mother will very likely die, and the baby will die in either case (tubal pregnancies never make it). We must choose the lesser evil in this case and abort, with the knowledge that our sins are forgiven. I sometimes wonder if I should even get out of bed in the morning, because I know it will lead to sin. It is a greater evil to stay in bed and not be fulfilling my vocations as much as humanly possible, so I get up and start sinning.

With that in mind, is the goal of preventing conception always sinful? I say yes. It may sound contradictory, but I also do not claim that there is no potentially acceptable reason when contraception might be the lesser evil. At the same time, I contend that no one has an entirely sinless reason for contraception. Abstinence outside of marriage, of course, is the only God pleasing way to live outside of marriage. But can abstinence ever be sinless within marriage if it is for the purpose of preventing a life from being created by a man and wife? My contention is that it will always be an example of trying to chose the lesser evil. These are rare but difficult decisions that cry out for the aid of one's pastor. But how many pastors understand God's law in the area of procreation? Sadly almost none.

I believe this discussion, thus far, has been missing two absolutely crucial dimensions. First is the biblical explanation of why family planning is sinful. In the post below Pr. Curtis identifies two ways in which contraception can be sinful: goals and means. One way is not having a valid reason (goal?) for contracepting, in which case all means become sinful. The other is having a valid reason, but using a means which is prohibited by God's law, and Pr. Curtis believes NFP is the only valid means.

While I agree that the natural law argument is one of the ways in which Scripture shows family planning to be wrong, we will soon see that there is much more to the "sinfulness" of contraception than this narrow Romanist viewpoint illustrates (no insult to Pr. Curtis intended - I do not believe he is a Romanist). But, alas, the primary discussion of the subject of "why family planning is sinful according to God's Word" must wait for the progression of the discussion on NFP, according to Pr. Rufner's prescription.

THE NATURE OF SIN

The second dimension that I believe has been missing in discussions thus far falls in the context of original sin, which our visitor Lawrence has brought up. In this context we don't deal with means, by which one achieves a goal, but with the very nature of the individual himself. Sin is much more than actions and goals; it is our state of being. This second point is the big picture of the issue which I believe should take precedence.

Let me illustrate what I mean. I do not use any form of contraception, yet I am still guilty of this sin (poor miserable sinner that I am), being contraceptive in my heart. I often desire some form of contraception, even though I use none. It's hard raising six children (though it was harder raising one - not the child's fault, first time parents are a wreck!). My knowledge of God's law regarding procreation curbs me with the first use of the law and instructs me via the third use of the law, but it also always on this earth will convict me via the second use of the law. Praise God for the Gospel!

Many people today believe they are following God's law against adultery because they don't sleep with anyone but their spouse. Christ brings the law into focus by saying: "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Likewise, anger is equated with murder. Luther further explains that the perfect fulfillment of this law is more than preventing ourselves from being angry at our neighbor. It is to "help and befriend him in every bodily need."

In the same manner, I believe we need to have the overall view of the sin of contraception as being contraceptive in heart, regardless of what means are, or are not, used. All our sins are forgiven so that we are all perfect saints through faith in Christ, but our sinful nature cannot be reformed so we are always sinners. All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. That said, what can still condemn us? Only unbelief! Thank God for the gift of faith!

So, why does St. Paul say in 1 Corinthians 6:9 that those who live in manifest sins of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of heaven? Very simply, and only, because living in such sins (adultery, homosexuality, sodomy, etc.) is incompatible with faith in Christ. It is evidence of unbelief. It should then give one pause that Augustine said contraception was akin to adultery and harlotry. Luther equated it with sodomy. Lukas Osiander said that those who commit it will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

We all continue to sin daily, but there is a big difference between struggling with sin (of which we repent) and living in sin (which is therefore unrepentant). Nobody goes to hell because of sin. Christ took away the sins of the whole world! People go to hell because of unbelief, which is clearly evidenced by living in manifest sins of the flesh.

Now, you can understand that what concerns me about NFP is that it is not a practice which a couple just happens to fall into, with an accompanying feeling of guilt, like barrier methods can cause. It is the most premeditated and successful way to limit family size known today. It is a complete lifestyle, with daily monitoring of the woman's fertility, with the primary intent of preventing procreation. This is completely contrary to God's law with regard to procreation, and potentially incompatible with faith.

With all the above in mind, consider Luther's explanation of 1 Timothy 2:15, "Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety."

"15. 'SHE WILL BE SAVED.' That subjection of women and domination of men have not been taken away, have they? No. The penalty remains. The blame passed over. The pain and tribulation of childbearing continue. Those penalties will continue until judgment. So also the dominion of men and the subjection of women continue. You must endure them. You will also be saved if you have also subjected yourselves and bear your children with pain. 'THROUGH BEARING CHILDREN.' It is a very great comfort that a woman can be saved by bearing children, etc. That is, she has an honorable and salutary status in life if she keeps busy having children. We ought to recommend this passage to them, etc. She is described as 'saved' not for freedom, for license, but for bearing and rearing children. Is she not saved by faith? He goes on and explains himself: bearing children is a wholesome responsibility, but for believers. To bear children is acceptable to God. He does not merely say that bearing children saves: he adds: if the bearing takes place in faith and love, it is a Christian work, for 'to the pure all things are pure (Titus 1 :15).' Also: 'All things work together,' Rom. 8:28. This is the comfort for married people in trouble: hardship and all things are salutary, for through them they are moved forward toward salvation and against adultery.... 'IN FAITH.' Paul had to add this, lest women think that they are good in the fact that they bear children. Simple childbearing does nothing, since the heathen also do this. But for Christian women their whole responsibility is salutary. So much the more salutary, then is bearing children. I add this, therefore, that they may not feel secure when they have no faith." [Luther's Works, Vol. 28, p. 279]

Women (and men) are "not saved for freedom, for license." NFP is a license to sin given out by the Roman Catholic Church. If you have a "valid" reason, Rome will not call you to repentance for valuing your life more than the potential children you are preventing from birth. You have an exception clause! You are sinless in this area of your life. Keep working on the others.


CASUISTRY

Back to the Lutheran ethical principle of conflicting absolutes. If there is a case where we must choose the lesser evil and prevent the conception of a child, what means should we use? NFP would be a good start, but it is not foolproof (take that word literally). For some, sterilization could be the method of choice. For a hypothetical instance, consider an incurable disease in the wife which would make pregnancy 100% fatal.

If the couple decides that the lesser evil is contracepting, I would recommend a complete hysterectomy for the wife. The husband should not be sterilized, because he may remarry and beget more children. However, if the wife is potentially curable, I would recommend NFP and barrier methods and/or even reversible tubal ligation to greater ensure the life of the mother. All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient. These would be the expedient methods in this case of casuistry, in my understanding of sin.

Much more could (and should) be said, but this post is long enough. More will proceed in comments and further posts.

Blessings,
Caspar Heydenreich

30 comments:

Sarah said...

I wonder if, because of the nature of agricultural cultures and industrial/informational, the Bible does not go into great lengths to disscussing conraception explicitly. There are no good reasons for agricultural societies to contracept- more hands to help on the farm!

Is it possible that there are reasons for a post-agricultural family to plan a family?

(Fortunately, I don't I have to worry about it- we are getting a late start!)

Caspar said...

The primary post-agricultural reasons are called materialism and individualism. However, these are simply the same old sins with a new name. Nothing is new under the sun.

Women are at exponentially lower risk of death in childbirth now, as is infant mortality, and poverty is virtually unknown in the U.S. Kids cost money and time as well as the age old hardships and pain. These all get in the way of postmodern individualism and materialism. How often I have heard people say: "I can't afford any (or any more) children." But the heart was the same back in the agricultural society of Luther's day! Even legitimate poverty is no excuse to hold back God's procreative hand from your marriage.

Listen to Luther:

For one must also consider that at that time fertility was regarded as an extraordinary blessing and a special gift of God, as is clear from Deut. 28:4, where Moses numbers fertility among the blessings. “There will not be a barren woman among you,” he says (cf. Ex. 23:26). We do not regard this so highly today. Although we like and desire it in cattle, yet in the human race there are few who regard a woman’s fertility as a blessing. Indeed, there are many who have an aversion for it and regard sterility as a special blessing. Surely this is also contrary to nature. Much less is it pious and saintly. For this affection has been implanted by God in man’s nature, so that it desires its increase and multiplication. Accordingly, it is inhuman and godless to have a loathing for offspring. Thus someone recently called his wife a sow, since she gave birth rather often. The good-for-nothing and impure fellow! The saintly fathers did not feel like this at all; for they acknowledged a fruitful wife as a special blessing of God and, on the other hand, regarded sterility as a curse. And this judgment flowed from the Word of God in Gen. 1:28, where He said: “Be fruitful and multiply.” From this they understood that children are a gift of God. [Luther's Works, vol. 5, p. 329]

Although it is very easy to marry a wife, it is very difficult to support her along with the children and the household. Accordingly, no one notices this faith of Jacob. Indeed, many hate fertility in a wife for the sole reason that the offspring must be supported and brought up. For this is what they commonly say: “Why should I marry a wife when I am a pauper and a beggar? I would rather bear the burden of poverty alone and not load myself with misery and want.” But this blame is unjustly fastened on marriage and fruitfulness. Indeed, you are indicting your unbelief by distrusting God’s goodness, and you are bringing greater misery upon yourself by disparaging God’s blessing. For if you had trust in God’s grace and promises, you would undoubtedly be supported. But because you do not hope in the Lord, you will never prosper. [Luther's Works, vol. 5, p. 332]

Erich

jconner said...

Caspar,

Thanks for your thoughts. Let me see if I understand you correctly.

We, as sinners, are incapable of fulfilling ANY of God’s laws.

Choosing to prevent pregnancy is always sin, but is sometimes the lesser of two evils

Only unbelief condemns.

There is a difference between sin we struggle with and repent of daily (faith can still exist in this instance)

and

sin we live in and of which we are unrepentant (in this case faith does not exist)

NFP is a license to sin.
NFP is living in unrepentant sin and therefore unbelief.

NFP, while always evil and sinful, can sometimes be the lesser of two evils.

Is this your position (as thus far revealed)?


A few questions:
If a couple wishes to use NFP
to space pregnancies to give
the mother an opportunity to
recover from the birth of a
child, is this couple living
in sin and therefore
unbelief? (and, I would
assume, therefore in danger
of hell)

Or, is concern for the well-
being of the mother, or, as
you put it,_ valuing your
life more than the potential
children you are preventing
from birth_, the lesser of
two evils?

According to your position,
it is always evil and sinful
to prevent or space pregnancy
(especially through NFP).
Those who use NFP are
exhibiting one of the
_manifest sins of the flesh_
and are therefore living in
unrepentant sin, which
is a sign of unbelief. And
as you say, _People go to
hell because of unbelief,
which is clearly evidenced by
living in manifest sins of
the flesh._ I would
therefore assume you would
conclude that those who
practice NFP are in danger
of the fires of hell. Is
this what you are saying? If
not, how does your reasoning
not lead to this?

Thanks again for your thoughts.

J.Conner

Caspar said...

Is this your position (as thus far revealed)?

YES.

A few questions:
If a couple wishes to use NFP to space pregnancies to give the mother an opportunity to recover from the birth of a child, is this couple living
in sin and therefore unbelief? (and, I would assume, therefore in danger of hell)

NOT IF IT THEY SINCERELY BELIEVE THIS IS THE LESSER EVIL. IS THIS MOTHER HAVING SEVER POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION? ALSO, I WOULD NOTE THAT EXCLUSIVE BREAST FEEDING HAS ABOUT THE SAME CONTRACEPTIVE NATURE AS NFP FOR THE FIRST SIX MONTHS POSTPARTUM. OFTEN THIS LASTS TWO YEARS OR MORE. STUDIES SHOW THAT THE AVERAGE SPACING OF CHILDREN IN CULTURES WHO EXCLUSIVELY BREASTFEED AND USE NO BIRTH CONTROL IS TWO YEARS.

Or, is concern for the well-being of the mother, or, as you put it,_ valuing your life more than the potential children you are preventing from birth_, the lesser of two evils?

THAT'S THE QUESTION, ISN'T IT!

According to your position, it is always evil and sinful to prevent or space pregnancy (especially through NFP). Those who use NFP are
exhibiting one of the _manifest sins of the flesh_ and are therefore living in
unrepentant sin, which is a sign of unbelief.

I SAID THIS IS POTENTIALLY TRUE, NOT ALWAYS.

And as you say, _People go to hell because of unbelief, which is clearly evidenced by living in manifest sins of
the flesh._ I would therefore assume you would conclude that those who
practice NFP are in danger of the fires of hell. Is this what you are saying?

YES. IN DANGER OF GOING TO HELL. I'M NOT REALLY SURE ABOUT THOSE WHO MIGHT BE COMPLETELY IGNORANT OF THIS ASPECT OF GOD'S LAW (EVEN THAT WRITTEN ON THEIR HEARTS).

If not, how does your reasoning
not lead to this?

IT DOES.

I HOPE THAT CLARIFIES MY POSITION.

BLESSINGS,

CASPAR

Acts 17:11 said...

We all continue to sin daily, but there is a big difference between struggling with sin (of which we repent) and living in sin (which is therefore unrepentant). Nobody goes to hell because of sin. Christ took away the sins of the whole world! People go to hell because of unbelief, which is clearly evidenced by living in manifest sins of the flesh.

Please forgive me for not replying directly to the content of your post. It is a good one and worthy of much consideration. However, this paragraph hit me hard, and I want to say thanks. I am guilty of break the law because I habitually steal things that do no belong to me. I go to church every week, confess my sins and receive absolution. Yet I don't stop doing what I am doing, and give up the things that I have stolen. Thanks again for this post. It's helped a lot.

rmgc said...

"Even legitimate poverty is no excuse to hold back God's procreative hand from your marriage."

Wow, man. That's harsh. I have a really hard time imagining myself being willing to jump in the sack while my malnourished children lay in feverish sleep next to me. May God have mercy on my soul. But we all knew this conversation was going to get even more exasperating once it turned to casuistry (I'll spare you my reaction to your helpful information about breastfeeding [of which I am a rabid proponent]).

Also, 'the primary discussion of the subject of "why family planning is sinful according to God's Word"' does not really seem to be "wait[ing] for the progression of the discussion on NFP, according to Pr. Rufner's prescription." Just say your piece so we can have an uninterrupted discussion of NFP later on! ;)

Finally, I think you're mischaracterizing NFPers in your descriptions. One thing the papists I know always laugh about is how on their diocesan marriage prep weekends, the couple who comes in to sing the praises of NFP and talk about how well it works always has a million kids. I don't know any NFP couple that plans to and actually has only two children. The reason faithful people use NFP is because they believe God's promise and obey his command regarding family. The practical result is that they just know earlier than most people that they're pregnant--and they get pregnant a lot more often. People who use NFP for theological reasons, on the whole, have lots of kids. Sure, I chart my temps. Then my dear and loving husband and I have a good laugh about the fact that if we keep going at this rate, we'll have 7 kids by the time I'm 35. (And then, later on, I have a good prayer about it.)

Pregnant as always,
rmgc

Sarah said...

Just on a thought on being good stewards...

I have been thinking a lot about agriculture. It is beneficial for the land to allow it to lie fallow for a season or two, or even three. The land could potentially continue to grow things there, but the soil would be depleated of certain nutrients, etc.

I believe that NFP can be used to space children two to three years apart in order that a woman may regain her health so that she will be a better bearer of more children. Letting the womb lie fallow, so to say.

I guess we just look at it differently. I do see fertility as a blessing, but it is simply not healthy for a woman to have a child year after year without giving her body ample time to regain strength and health.

Caspar said...

Acts 17:11, you're welcome. Keep up the struggle!

Caspar
___________________

rmgc, I wrote: "Even legitimate poverty is no excuse to hold back God's procreative hand from your marriage."

You respond: "Wow, man. That's harsh."

YES! GOD'S LAW IS TERRIBLY HARSH! HOW CAN ANYONE KEEP IT?

Romans 5:20-21 (Luther Bibel 1545)

Das Gesetz aber ist neben eingekommen, auf daß die Sünde mächtiger würde. Woaber die Sünde mächtig geworden ist, da ist doch die Gnade viel mächtiger geworden, auf daß, gleichwie die Sünde geherrscht hat zum Tode, also auch herrsche die Gnade durch die Gerechtigkeit zum ewigen Leben durch Jesum Christum, unsern HERRN.

My own literal English translation of the German: The law however came in besides, so that sin became more strong. But where sin becomes strong, nevertheless grace becomes even more strong, so that, as sin prevailed to death, thus grace also prevails through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

This is what Luther was talking about when he said what was mistranslated into English in the American Edition of Luther's Works as "sin boldly."

We fool ourselves when we minimize sin by watering down the law to something that seems manageable. "Let your sins be strong, but let your trust in Christ be stronger." That is what Luther really said. Not "sin boldly."

God's law demands more than any of us are capable of fulfilling. Christ, however, fulfilled it all for us. That righteousness is the perfect righteousness which He imputed to us in exchange for our sin.

Let your sins be strong, for God's grace is even stronger!

Caspar
_______________

Sarah,

Even if your analogy is valid, God naturally lets the woman's "soil" rest for a couple "seasons" on the average when she supplies her children with the exclusive diet of breastmilk which science is just now realizing the unmatchable benefits of.

When breastfeeding exclusively, the chances of pregnancy are approximately 1% during the first six months postpartum prior to the first menstruation. After six months the chance of pregnancy increases. Three studies have indicated that the actual rate of pregnancy is about 6%, a rate that is very competitive with actual use rates for both natural and unnatural methods of birth control. [Source: CCLI]

You write: "it is simply not healthy for a woman to have a child year after year without giving her body ample time to regain strength and health."

Well, if the mother breastfeeds exclusively, as she should, it would be unheard of for her to conceive successive children year after year. But if she did, what is your evidence of the "unhealthiness" of having one baby per year? To make such an assertion, you should have research to back up your assertion.

The overwhelming bulk of research I am aware of would support the hypothesis that the short and long term health benefits of such prolific childbearing and nursing far outweigh any perceived detriments.

You make these arguments in the name of "good stewardship." Good stewardship does not refuse or limit God's blessings. It takes care of whatever He blesses (or burdens, depending on your perspective) one with, and brings forth fruit: "some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty."

Caspar

Eric Phillips said...

There is no way that abortion in the case of a tubal pregnancy is wrong.

Tina said...

Sarah, as the wife of a farmer who is relearning the art of farming, I would dispute your asserttion that it is good for the land to lie fallow. It is, in fact, not. Fallow ground (ground with nothing growing on it), is ripe for erosion from wind and rain, and weeds will tend to abound there. It is actually best to keep it constantly planted to something, even if the intent of that crop is to be plowed under to increase the fertility of the ground.

Please note, I do NOT in any way support this analogy with respect to a woman's womb!

Also, I wonder if the fact that NFP'ers tend to have more children is due to the method 'not working' (thus the giggles), or to the fact that these couples have somehow grasped the wonder and blessing of their gifts from God, and therefore desire more of them?

It is often a common assumption that any couple who has more than 2-3 children simply doesn't get what causes that, and any child past 3 had to be a whoops. I know MANY families actively seeking LARGE (by that I mean 8+) numbers of dc. In my sphere, I haven't heard of any health risks (other than possibly being a bit tired) to having children closely spaced, and even to tandem nursing those children. I even know of one woman who is pregnant (at age 44) with twins that will be #11 and 12, and her last baby was born just this past Sept. To make it even more astonishing, she has 2 other sets of twins--all of these babies are 2 and under (the oldest about to turn 3)! And all were born by cesarean. She is fine, joyful and her family sounds delightful. (She does not nurse, btw).

Good nutrition and good supplements can go a long way in maintaining a woman's health and vitality even through closely spaced pregnancies.

Perhaps God is blessing some families so abundantly because they are willing to be blessed. That article that was posted (on the Yahoo group) on the declining birth rates in the west was astonishing to me.

Caspar said...

Tina,

If you liked that one, check out this one. Sorry, the tables are not available in the online version. They are the most astonishing.

Caspar

rmgc said...

Caspar, I think my point was, what if my husband and I just don't find ourselves to be in the mood while we watch our children starve? Is that a sin? Perhaps legitimate poverty is, at least sometimes, self-containing?

Whoever else is still reading, doctors advise women to space pregnancies not less than one year apart because this mimics the natural infertility (which assists the body in recovering from pregnancy) of breastfeeding, which many women don't do any more. That doesn't mean that many breastfeeding women don't have their fertility return earlier, and more or less sinfully wish they were in that 94% that would ease the anemia of their next pregnancy. No, anemia won't kill you, but it sure makes you more even tired when you're chasing down a 10-month-old while pregnant.

Just saying,
rmgc

Caspar said...

rmgc,

I don't believe it is a sin to not copulate when you don't have the urge. Nobody here is suggesting this.

As for your statements that "doctors advise..." please realize that many doctors "advise" all sorts of things that have no basis in scientific fact or research. This "anemia" thing is really out of left field. PLEASE state your evidence for such strange assertions. What are you talking about?

Caspar

rmgc said...

Caspar, it's just a stupid example (fact: some women experience anemia during pregnancy. Do you really want me to dig out my Mayo book and cite a page number? it's all the way upstairs). The point is that having a baby is physically hard. If they're not so close together it's easier, hence God-given breastfeeding infertility. The "if you breastfeed like you should your babies will be farther spaced than if you don't" point is small comfort to those whose bodies don't work that way. AND, I didn't say that doctors advising it make it good advice, just that it's what they say.

Sheesh, dude! You read between lines like a woman, and about as accurately. KIDDING! NOBODY FREAK OUT! rmgc

Caspar said...

Yes, women can experience anemia during pregnancy, but that is easily treated. Spacing children will not lessen it.

Of course it is physically hard having babies. It's also physically hard raising them. A lot of things are easier if they're not close together. However, I believe that if you breastfeeding simply for the purpose of spacing your children, you are contracepting. If you breastfeed because it is the best nutrition for your child, then you are not contracepting. Remember my arguments in the post starting this discussion about the nature of sin.

It's like the exegesis of 1 Cor. 7:5 I posted below. If a couple abstains from sex for a period of time for the purpose of fasting/prayer, then they are not contracepting. But if they abstain from sex for a period of time for the purpose of contracepting, they are contracepting even if they also pray and fast in an attempt to make their contracepting acceptable to God.

If there are women whose fertility does not virtually cease during the first six months of ecological breastfeeding (evidence please?) then should she contracept by other means? If she does, then she is doing little different than the person who breastfeeds for the purpose of contracepting. Both are engaging in an activity for the purpose of preventing conception, regardless whether it is a "natural" means or an "unnatural" one.

I'm sorry that isn't much "comfort." When did God promise to offer comfort to women in childbearing? I remember him saying the opposite. As Luther said in the quote I gave in the initial post:

"That subjection of women and domination of men have not been taken away, have they? No. The penalty remains. The blame passed over. The pain and tribulation of childbearing continue. Those penalties will continue until judgment. So also the dominion of men and the subjection of women continue. You must endure them. You will also be saved if you have also subjected yourselves and bear your children with pain. 'THROUGH BEARING CHILDREN.' It is a very great comfort that a woman can be saved by bearing children, etc. That is, she has an honorable and salutary status in life if she keeps busy having children. We ought to recommend this passage to them, etc. She is described as 'saved' not for freedom, for license, but for bearing and rearing children."

Caspar

rmgc said...

Caspar, with all due respect, I am very tired of you skewing my arguments and generally mischaracterizing me to look like some kind of idiot. You're the one who said that breastfeeding spaces pregnancies as if this were great news for everybody. What I said is: it doesn't work that effectively for everybody. Statement of fact. The only reason I said anything is that you make it sound like everybody whose kids aren't spaced the perfect amount of time dictated by ecological breastfeeding is somehow slacking. Just didn't want anybody else who might be reading to be as surprised as I was to be back in the game much earlier than the blessed CCL book said I would.

In answer to your question: no. Once again, I never said or implied that.

Your repertoire of Luther points grows tiresome. We all know what he says (not least because you keep re-citing them). That's why we're here.

The bottom line is that I am open to correction and have read everything you write with interest, and then you treat me and everyone else who joins this discussion, honestly seeking the truth, like a bunch of morons (for evidence, see above posts). It's a good thing you didn't pursue a career in flycatching. I'm out, before I chew through another bite guard and support your kind any more. rmgc

Caspar said...

rmgc,

I am sincerely sorry to have offended you. In no way have I intended to skew any of your comments. What you have written has been less than clear to me, which is why I ask questions. I also do not understand how your comments relate to the subject of this post.

The misunderstanding goes both ways.

You wrote: "I am very tired of you skewing my arguments and generally mischaracterizing me to look like some kind of idiot. You're the one who said that breastfeeding spaces pregnancies as if this were great news for everybody."

I believe you are skewing my statement. In what way did I say that breastfeeding spaces pregnancies as if this were great news for everybody? I said that ecological breastfeeding reduces fertility and gave approximate percentages by months which are supported by research. I did not intend this to be taken as "good news" by anyone. It is simply a statement of fact in response to the comment made by Sarah that someone must contracept or they will have babies every year. The fact is, it is quite rare for people to have babies every year even if they don't breastfeed or use contraception.

You then write: "What I said is: it doesn't work that effectively for everybody. Statement of fact."

TRUE. I don't disagree with you on this fact.

You then write: "The only reason I said anything is that you make it sound like everybody whose kids aren't spaced the perfect amount of time dictated by ecological breastfeeding is somehow slacking.

Please quote where it is that I said or implied such a thing. I certainly did not intend to. I don't believe there is a "perfect" spacing of children, nor do I believe that ecological breastfeeding gives uniform spacing of pregnancies to ALL people.

My whole argument is based on the position that children should come whenever God decides to bless a marriage with them, if that is one child every five or ten years, one every year, or whatever.

God's planning is the only planning which is perfect. He makes no mistakes. His planning can only be fully realized when we keep our sinful hands out of it.

You then write: "you treat me and everyone else who joins this discussion, honestly seeking the truth, like a bunch of morons (for evidence, see above posts)."

I am sincerely sorry, but I don't see where I have done this. Please quote my offensive words.

You write: It's a good thing you didn't pursue a career in flycatching.

I suppose you are implying that I am as sour as vinegar instead of being sweat like honey. My intent is neither. I'm not trying to "catch" anybody. I'm just trying to state my understanding of God's Word in line with the theology of the cross.

You write: "I'm out, before I chew through another bite guard and support your kind any more."

What "kind" is my "kind?" The kind that doesn't candycoat the Truth?

I'm sorry you have to wear a bite guard. There are other ways of dealing with stress than just treating the painful symptoms of clenching and grinding.

PAX,

Caspar

jconner said...

Caspar,

I have to admit, I’m with rmgc on this one. While it may have been unintentional, you have been rather harsh and condescending to individuals on this blog. As you have admitted previously, this is something with which you struggle: _ I have been rather coarse in my treatment of this subject overall, because I rarely found any Lutherans who did not totally reject the historic biblical teaching on birth control. Now that there seems to be more Lutherans addressing this topic, I think it's time for me to tone down the rhetoric. (11/17/2005 4:46 PM) _

If you have been presenting your toned down rhetoric, I would hate to see your toned up rhetoric. Remember, the vast majority of us share your same commitment and passion for the Lutheran faith (we’re on the same side). You may be right in what you say, but wrong in how you say it.

____________________________

Next point

I would like you to clarify something.

In previous posts you said this:
_Paul’s Greek wording states that all three conditions must be met to allow abstinence: 1) mutual consent, 2) brief time period, and 3) for prayer._

and

_abstinence is only allowed for the exclusive purpose of prayer, not the prevention of pregnancy._

According to your exegesis of 1 Corinthians 7:5, ALL THREE CONDITIONS MUST BE MET TO ALLOW ABSTINENCE_ and abstinence is _ONLY_ allowed for those _EXCLUSIVE_ purposes.

Then in this thread you said this:

_ I don't believe it is a sin to not copulate when you don't have the urge. Nobody here is suggesting this._

According to your exegesis of 1 Corinthians 7:5, it sure seems as if you are suggesting this. If your exegesis is correct, then not being in the mood falls outside the three conditions which ALL MUST be met to ALLOW for abstinence. If so, then not being in the mood is sinful.

And even more, according to your exegesis, couples should copulate continuously lest they sin by not meeting ALL THREE of those conditions. Come to think of it, I may be sinning right now because I’m not copulating and blogging certainly falls outside the three conditions which all must be met to allow for abstinence.

In all seriousness, I’m just not sure how your exegesis avoids this problem. If this is God’s command and ALL THREE conditions must be met for abstinence, then one better be in the bedroom as much as possible and one’s mood makes no difference. But if not being in the mood is not sinful, how is abstaining because you value the physical, emotional, and mental health of the mom? (and no you didn’t say this, but you have suggested that this was the lesser of two evils.)

If you take your exegesis to its logical conclusion it leads us into the ridiculous. If ALL THREE conditions MUST be met for abstinence then anything we chose to do besides sex that falls outside those three conditions is sinful. Anything! Like say sleep or eating or working.

Could it be Paul is simply sharing SOME valid reasons to abstain from sex and not the ONLY valid reasons to abstain from sex?

How does your exegesis avoid this and how do you avoid contradicting yourself?

J.Conner

Caspar Heydenreich said...

Pr. Conner,

You write: "you have been rather harsh and condescending to individuals on this blog."

If this is true, it has most certainly been unintentional. I am, indeed, trying to tone down my rhetoric and speak with all the charity my sinful soul can muster. In order for me to understand any continued failings of mine in this regard, would you PLEASE quote my words in which you believe I have been harsh and condescending. Other than a brief unpleasant exchange with Eric Phillips a while ago, I am totally unaware of anything I have said which could be interpreted as harsh or condescending.

Since you are "with rmgc on this," perhaps you can explain how it is that I, and not she, have been the harsh and condescending voice in this exchange. Would you consider the following words harsh and condescending? ... "Sheesh, dude! You read between lines like a woman, and about as accurately." ... "It's a good thing you didn't pursue a career in flycatching. I'm out, before I chew through another bite guard and support your kind any more."

Again, I humbly ask if you could please quote the harsh and condescending words I have written to her.

Now, as to your difficulty with my argument. You write: "If you take your exegesis to its logical conclusion it leads us into the ridiculous. If ALL THREE conditions MUST be met for abstinence then anything we chose to do besides sex that falls outside those three conditions is sinful. Anything! Like say sleep or eating or working."

My exegesis would not lead to this ridiculous position. Your statement is based on a false premise that "abstinence" in my exegesis could include any and all the time in one's life that one is not engaged in the act of copulation. It does not. More below...

You ask: "How does your exegesis avoid this [absurd conclusion] and how do you avoid contradicting yourself?"

Very simply. My understanding of the word "abstinence" only includes those times when and individual or couple desires sexual intercourse yet does not engage in it for reasons practicably within one's control.

The best English word we have in translating the Greek "apostereite" of 1 Cor. 7:5 is "deprive." What this is refering to is not in any way consistent with the ridiculous conclusion you have accused my exegesis of leading to.

What Paul was talking about leading up to this verse is that a married person's body is not his or her own, but rather belongs to his or her spouse in their sexual one-flesh relationship. What he says in verse five is that neither husband nor wife is to deprive his or her spouse marital relations when desired.

The only exception to this is a mutual agreement to deprive each other the gratification of their sexual appetites for a short period of time as part of their fasting and prayer.

You also ask: "Could it be Paul is simply sharing SOME valid reasons to abstain from sex and not the ONLY valid reasons to abstain from sex?"

Not according to a grammatico-historical exegesis of the text. It is simply not possible. Lenski's explanation of the grammar confirms my position.

I hope this clarifies how this grammatico-historical exegesis avoids your absurd conclusion and how I am not contradicting myself when I say: "I don't believe it is a sin to not copulate when you don't have the urge." The pronoun "you" here was meant to refer to a married couple.

Thank you for the opportunity of clarifying this.

Blessings,

Caspar

Caspar said...

Pr. Conner,

You write: "you have been rather harsh and condescending to individuals on this blog."

If this is true, it has most certainly been unintentional. I am, indeed, trying to tone down my rhetoric and speak with all the charity my sinful soul can muster. In order for me to understand any continued failings of mine in this regard, would you PLEASE quote my words in which you believe I have been harsh and condescending. Other than a brief unpleasant exchange with Eric Phillips a while ago, I am totally unaware of anything I have said which could be interpreted as harsh or condescending.

Since you are "with rmgc on this," perhaps you can explain how it is that I, and not she, have been the harsh and condescending voice in this exchange. Would you consider the following words harsh and condescending? ... "Sheesh, dude! You read between lines like a woman, and about as accurately." ... "It's a good thing you didn't pursue a career in flycatching. I'm out, before I chew through another bite guard and support your kind any more."

Again, I humbly ask if you could please quote the harsh and condescending words I have written to her.

Now, as to your difficulty with my argument. You write: "If you take your exegesis to its logical conclusion it leads us into the ridiculous. If ALL THREE conditions MUST be met for abstinence then anything we chose to do besides sex that falls outside those three conditions is sinful. Anything! Like say sleep or eating or working."

My exegesis would not lead to this ridiculous position. Your statement is based on a false premise that "abstinence" in my exegesis could include any and all the time in one's life that one is not engaged in the act of copulation. It does not. More below...

You ask: "How does your exegesis avoid this [absurd conclusion] and how do you avoid contradicting yourself?"

Very simply. My understanding of the word "abstinence" only includes those times when and individual or couple desires sexual intercourse yet does not engage in it for reasons practicably within one's control.

The best English word we have in translating the Greek "apostereite" of 1 Cor. 7:5 is "deprive." What this is refering to is not in any way consistent with the ridiculous conclusion you have accused my exegesis of leading to.

What Paul was talking about leading up to this verse is that a married person's body is not his or her own, but rather belongs to his or her spouse in their sexual one-flesh relationship. What he says in verse five is that neither husband nor wife is to deprive his or her spouse marital relations when desired.
The only exception to this is a mutual agreement to deprive each other the gratification of their sexual appetites for a short period of time as part of their fasting and prayer.
You also ask: "Could it be Paul is simply sharing SOME valid reasons to abstain from sex and not the ONLY valid reasons to abstain from sex?"

Not according to a grammatico-historical exegesis of the text. It is simply not possible. Lenski's explanation of the grammar confirms my position.

I hope this clarifies how this grammatico-historical exegesis avoids your absurd conclusion and how I am not contradicting myself when I say: "I don't believe it is a sin to not copulate when you don't have the urge." The pronoun "you" here was meant to refer to a married couple.

Thank you for the opportunity of clarifying this.

Blessings,

Caspar

Sarah said...

Hello again!

Re: unplanted fields. Doesn't the OT dictate that fields are to go unplanted every 7 years? And the animals to get rest?

Anyhow, point is: having a baby is hard. It is very stressful for a woman's body and often depleats her of nutrients. Breastfeeding, too. I am just saying that to treat the Temple properly it seems wise to let her rest for a season to regain her strength.

"My whole argument is based on the position that children should come whenever God decides to bless a marriage with them, if that is one child every five or ten years, one every year, or whatever."

I have heard this countless times. We forget that God doesn't just plant babies in women- sex has to happen first. No sex=no babies (with the exception of the BV Mary)So this leaves room for the possibility of NFP being within the will of God.

I do agree with you, Caspar, that this matter is more the condition of the heart. I am just proposing that it might possibly be a good thing to allow a woman to rest for a season. Proper care of the Temple is a very different motivation than materialism.

Caspar said...

Thanks, Sarah. I agree that a perceived "proper care of the Temple" would be a different motivation than materialism, but isn't this temple (the human body) meant to serve God and others?

The admonition of the Lord about the body being the temple of the Holy Spirit is to stay away from sexual immorality, not the fertile period or what some would call excessive fertility. This "caring for the temple" often goes too far, such as the Mormons abstaining from tea and coffee. Fifteen minutes from where I live John Harvey Kellogg of the Seventh Day Adventists set up the Battle Creek Sanitarium to care for "The Living Temple." Talk about nuts!

You say that "to treat the Temple properly it seems wise to let her rest for a season to regain her strength."

I understand what you are proposing. Unfortunately, there is no Scriptural or scientific basis for the proposition. Even if there were a scientific basis for your proposition, are we to care for ourselves at the expense of others?

The premise that "no sex = no baby" is a true statement. However, your conclusion that "this leaves room for the possibility of NFP being within the will of God" does not follow (non sequitur).

In order to complete the logic, there must be an assumed premise(s). Is yours that when things are outside of our immediate power God's will is always done, and that when our actions can change things that this somehow opens up the possibility of our actions being in line with God's?

Two facts:

1. Our will can virtually always modify the future - exceptions: death and taxes. ;-)

2. Our human will is always against God.

In order to determine if something we are doing is consistent with God's will, our only venue is to consult the revealed will of God (a.k.a. His Word). What God's will is with regard to procreation must be consulted in order to know whether any form of family planning on our part is within the will of God.

The fact that "no sex = no baby" tells us nothing. No breathing = no life. Does this mean we might possibly be acting within the realm of God's will when we take our own life or that of another by asphyxiation? Non-sequitur.

The fact that we can choose to do something or to not do something has no bearing whatsoever on whether or not we should.

Blessings,

Caspar

Sarah said...

"I understand what you are proposing. Unfortunately, there is no Scriptural or scientific basis for the proposition."

It seems obvious to me. There doesn't need to be a double-blind study to determine that. Marathon running is hard. Can we properly conclude that a person cannot run a marathon day after day without rest? Having a baby is even harder. That's all I am saying.

"Even if there were a scientific basis for your proposition, are we to care for ourselves at the expense of others?"

At the expense of others? These "others" don't even exist yet! What if we are neglecting the relationship with our husband because we are too overcome with so many children? Like the airline stewards say "affix your own oxygen mask before helping someone else." We are best equipped to help others when we care for ourselves.

I don't disagree with you in many ways, Caspar, I am just trying to point out that this thing isn't totally cut and dry.

Caspar said...

Sarah,

You say: It seems obvious to me. There doesn't need to be a double-blind study to determine that.

I beg to differ. Not only do you need evidence to conclude this, you need evidence that contradicts all the other evidence regarding the health and well-being benefits of frequent births - not just to the mother, but to the offspring - as well as the benefits to society and humanity as a whole. No one even realizes the overwhelming benefits of a large family, and brothers and sisters close in age, anymore because such families are so rare.

Marathon running is hard. Can we properly conclude that a person cannot run a marathon day after day without rest? Having a baby is even harder. That's all I am saying.

I would agree that Marathon running is hard. I would also agree that running one day after day without rest is not even possible. However, running a few per year is possible. Even if having a baby is even harder (evidence?) having one every year or two is certainly possible, and many women and their children, not to mention society, benefit greatly from such fertility.

In any case, what benefits does marathon running give the world? Is running lots of marathons called for by God? Did God ever say "be strong and run lots of marathons?" If he did, then I think he'd give us the ability to do it. There is no divine mandate here, but there is one with regard to procreation. "Be fruitful and become many!" He DOES give us the ability to do this!

I wrote: "Even if there were a scientific basis for your proposition, are we to care for ourselves at the expense of others?"

You wrote: At the expense of others? These "others" don't even exist yet!

Precisely my point. What right do we have to prevent the very existence of these immortal beings, the benefit their existence would give to the world, and the added voices they would add to ours in the heavenly choirs? Is this not at the expense of others? Our postmodern minds think too much about individual relationships. This results in a tremendous expense to the family, society, and humanity.

Twelve U.S. Presidents were fifth children or later starting with George Washington, fifth of ten. Schumann, Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, Steinway, and Copland are just a few of the musicians that not only came from large families, but were the later born children. I could go on and on. Large families have produced some of the most amazing individuals in history, not just because they were born, but also because of the uniquely beneficial environment of a large family.

If these people had not ever come to be, would it not have been at the "expense of others?" Would there not be a void where their contribution to humanity would be missing. Of course we would never know it, yet we'd still suffer the effects of their absence. We don't know what we're missing in this age of 1.5 children per family!

You then say: What if we are neglecting the relationship with our husband because we are too overcome with so many children?

Do you really believe that anyone has to neglect her relationship with her husband if they have lots of children? I can speak from experience here, as well as a familiarity with many other large families. With six children, including a three-month old, and all but one homeschooled, my wife's relationship with me is stronger than it has EVER been!

The marriage relationship grows and strengthens with every child, spreading that relationship out into a growing family and all the contributions to each other, our church, community, humanity, etc., that the relationship with our spouse is supposed to blossom into. We are called to serve others by sacrificing ourselves.

I hope this makes my reasons for disagreement with your hypothesis more clear.

Caspar

Sarah said...

Caspar,

I find that when I disagree with some aspect of something many people automatically assume that I must be pro-the-exact-opposite-of-what-they-are-promoting.

Just to be clear on where we agree: My husband and I are not using any form of contraception and we'd like to have many children. We were chaste before marriage. We encourage others to be so also.

That being said... I have a chronic illness that, while it will not likely transfer to my offspring, will make pregnancy and motherhood extra challenging for me.

So, is it wrong for us to space children 2-4 years apart that my health doesn't totally collapse?

Side note: Traditional tribal cultures space children 3-4 years (Dr. Weston Price research) for the health of the tribe and the mother.

People living in Biblical times often died in childhood or women in childbirth. If you had 12 children an 5 survived, you were blessed. Today, if you have 12 children the likelyhood of all 12 surviving is high.

My main point is that there exist legitimate reasons why parents might want to space children.

Let's take away from the discussion the character of God and not the letter of the law.

Sarah said...

Ack that last sentence doesn't make sense at all! What I mean is "From this discussion let's take to our table (take away) this thing: namely the character of God and not merely the letter of the law."

Caspar said...

Sarah,

I assumed your statements thus far were about women in general, not about a specific health problem you have. What you are talking about now is casuistry. I believe family planning is always a sin, but may be the lesser evil. The question now according to this new revelation in your argument would be "is family planning the lesser evil" in this case.

As for the character of God and the letter of the Law, I agree. The final point in all of this is that all sin is forgiven. However, those who live in sin do not have faith. If family planning is a sin, then living in it is incompatible with faith. There we're not talking about the character of God, but the character of man. The law has its purpose in instructing us in living a Christian life and, more importantly, in showing us our sin, right down to the letter. Not one letter of the law has been abolished, and not one letter of it can be perfectly obeyed by man. But it has, indeed, all been forgiven! Praise Christ!!!

Caspar

Anonymous said...

>>>>>>You wrote: At the expense of others? These "others" don't even exist yet!

Precisely my point. What right do we have to prevent the very existence of these immortal beings, the benefit their existence would give to the world, and the added voices they would add to ours in the heavenly choirs? Is this not at the expense of others? Our postmodern minds think too much about individual relationships. This results in a tremendous expense to the family, society, and humanity.

Twelve U.S. Presidents were fifth children or later starting with George Washington, fifth of ten. Schumann, Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, Steinway, and Copland are just a few of the musicians that not only came from large families, but were the later born children. I could go on and on. Large families have produced some of the most amazing individuals in history, not just because they were born, but also because of the uniquely beneficial environment of a large family.

If these people had not ever come to be, would it not have been at the "expense of others?" Would there not be a void where their contribution to humanity would be missing. Of course we would never know it, yet we'd still suffer the effects of their absence. We don't know what we're missing in this age of 1.5 children per family!>>>>>>>

What you wrote has merit. I've also read that children who are first or only in a family are a high percentage of accomplished people. Perhaps the same statistics are used in differing ways.

But the real point is about the value of people. If we are to value "potential people" as your argument suggests, then even more, we need to value people who are already born. Or at least this could be a logical extension of this argument. For example, what about the "potential" that is lost when young soldiers die in war? Therefore, shouldn't Christians be always against all wars? What about the potential that is lost if a poor child can't get a good education? Then why aren't the Christian and Lutheran schools and colleges free?

What about the potential that is lost when already born children in other countries suffer from malnutrition during a famine? Perhaps pastors should suggest that we Christians go against the consumerism of our culture and give literally everything except the clothes on our backs to Lutheran World Relief or similar agencies.

What about all the potential that was deliberately excluded from blooming for centuries because the dominate culture decreed that the others would not be taught to read, go to school, have certain jobs, etc.

I think that any argument we make regarding a sort of "pro-life" attitude needs to be consistant and applied across the board.

If we are to value the potential of our as-yet unconceived children, then we need to value the actual talents and potential of the mother and the father, in ALL the areas where God has given them talents. Sheesh, that sounds like one of those dopey make everybody feel good no matter what movements. But the point remains: God obviously gives everybody talents beyond being mothers and fathers.

Anonymous said...

If humans don't control their numbers, nature will and I'm sure we won't like natures methods...epidemics/famines/war etc.

Pr. David Rufner said...

Dear Anonymous,

First, I would like to ask that in the future you identify yourself to some degree.

Secondly, I would ask you to back up your claim with something more than Orwellian hype.

Third, you point to natur as if she were god, yet even nature is subject to our God. Furthermore, as much as nature is also frustrated by sin in the world I would like to remind you that it was the Lord God who frustrated it. At the fall he added weeds to the Garden and he added death as a consequence to sin. And, it is He who has made a way out in His Son Jesus Christ.